Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

IX.

38.

sensation

CHAP. “ve will speak of it again.” “Ab!” exclaimed the dying

- man, with a mournful accent, “ you do not say Yes ; 1820.

say it, I beseech you, that I may die in peace.” In vain they tried to turn his thoughts to other subjects. “Ah !”

said be, with his last breath,“ the life of that man would Lamaxi have softened my last moments! İf, at least, I could Biog. Univ. depart with the belief that the blood of that man would lviii. 85, 86;" Derniers not flow after my death.” With these words he expired, Moments du Duc de and his soul winged its way to heaven, having left the Berri, 64, 72. prayer for mercy and forgiveness as its last bequest to

earth. 1

No words can convey an idea of the impression which Immense the death of the Duke de Berri produced in France. which it

Coming at a time of increasing political excitement, when produced,

the minds of men were already shaken by a vague disquietude, and the apprehension of great and approaching but unknown change, it excited a universal consternation. The obviously political character of the blow struck magnified tenfold its force. Levelled at the heir of the monarchy, and the only prince from whom a continuance of the direct line of succession could be hoped, it seemed at one stroke to destroy the hopes of an heir to the throne, and to leave the nation a prey to all the evils of an uncertain future and a disputed succession. Pity for the victim of political fanaticism, admiration for the magnanimity and lofty spirit of his death, mingled with apprehensions for themselves, and a mortal terror of the revolutionary convulsions which might be expected from a repetition of the blows of which this was the first. The public consternation manifested itself in the most unequivocal ways. All the theatres—and that, in Paris, was a decisive symptom—were closed. The balls of the carnival were interrupted ; and it was decreed by the Government, with the general consent of the people, that the opera-house should be removed from the spot where the execrable crime had been committed, and an expiatory monument erected on its site. But these changes did

IX.

and's

rds on

sion.

not adequately express the public feelings. They exhaled CHAP. in transports of indignation against the rashness of the ministries whose measures had brought matters to such a 1820. point, and the incapacity of the police, which had per- i lam vi mitted the crime to be committed ; and it was loudly 264, 266;

Lac. ii. 366, proclaimed, that an entire change of government and 369; Biog:

Univ. lviii. measures had become indispensable, if the monarchy was 86. to be saved from perdition.1 « The hand,” said Chateaubriand, “ which delivered

39. the blow is not the most guilty. Those who have really Chateauassassinated the Duke de Berri are those who, for four won

hem in the the occayears, have laboured to establish democratic laws in the monarchy; those who have banished religion from our laws; those who have recalled the murderers of Louis XVI. ; those who have heard, with indifference, impunity for regicides discussed at the tribune; those who have allowed the journals to preach up the sovereignty of the people, insurrection, and murder, without making any use of the laws intended for their repression; those who have favoured every false doctrine ; those who have rewarded treason and punished fidelity; those who have filled up all employments with the enemies of the Bourbons, and the creatures of Buonaparte ; those who, pressed by the public indignation, have promised to repeal a fatal law, and have done nothing during three months, apparently to give the Revolutionists time to sharpen their poniards. These are the true murderers of the Duke de Berri. It is no longer time to dissemble; the revolution we have so often predicted has already commenced, and it has already produced irreparable evils. Who can restore life to the Duke de Berri, or give us back the hopes which love and glory had wound up with his august person? Surprise is expressed that a poniard should have been raised; but the real subject of wonder is, that a thousand poniards have not been levelled at the breasts of our princes. During four years we have overwhelmed with rewards those who preach up an agrarian law, a

IX.

1820.

1 Chateaub Feb. 18,

3. 1820

291.

CHAP. republic, and assassination ; we have excited those who

have nothing against those who have something; him who is born in a humble class against him to whom misfortune has left nothing but a name : we have permitted public

opinion to be disquieted by phantoms, and represented a

ubo part of the nation as set on re-establishing rights for ever and March abolished, institutions for ever overturned. If we are @uvres, not plunged in the horrors of external or civil war, it is xx, 286,

not the fault of the administration which has just expired.” i

When language so violent as this was used in the midst 40. General

of the crisis, by so distinguished a writer as the Viscount agaiøst M. Chateaubriand, it may be supposed that inferior authors Decazes.

were still more impassioned in their strictures. The clamour became so violent that no ministry could stand against it. An untoward incident, which occurred while the Duke de Berri yet lived, tended to augment the public feeling on the subject. Entering the room in which Louvel was detained, M. Decazes was seized with a sudden suspicion that the dagger might have been poisoned ; and thinking, if so, an antidote might be applied, and possibly the life of the prince saved, he had whispered in his ear, “ Miserable man! a confession remains for you to make, which may save the life of your victim, and lessen your crime before God. Tell the truth sincerely to me, and me alone—was the dagger poisoned ?” “ It was not,” replied the assassin coldly, with the accent of truth. The words spoken on either side were not heard ; but the fact of M. Decazes haring whispered something to Louvel, during his first interrogatory, became known, and was seized upon and magnified by all the eagerness of faction. It was immediately bruited abroad that the minister had enjoined silence to the assassin, and thence it was concluded he had been his accomplice. So readily was this atrocious calumny received in the excited state of the public mind, and so eagerly was it seized upon by the vehemence of faction, that next day M. Clausel de Cous

IX.

ces suppo.ble for inm, sing

41.

sergues, a Royalist of the extreme Right, a respectable CHAP. man, but of an impassioned temperament and credulous disposition, said in the Chamber of Deputies, “ There is 1820 no law which prescribes the mode of impeaching ministers; but justice requires it should be done in public sitting, and in the face of France. I propose to the Chamber to institute a prosecution against M. Decazes, Minister of the Interior, as accomplice in the assassination.” The Chamber revolted against such an accusation, and only twenty-five voices supported it. General Foy said, “ If such an event is deplorable for all, it is in an especial manner so for the friends of freedom, since there can be 1 Lom vi no doubt that their adversaries will take advantage of 268, 273;

O Cap. vi. 305, this execrable crime to wrest from the nation the liberties 306; Ann.

Hist, iii. which the king has bestowed upon it, and which he is so 32, 33. anxious to maintain.”i

From the moment when the Duke de Berri breathed his last, the king foresaw the immense advantage it would The king

wla resolves to give to the ultra-Royalists, and the efforts they would support make to force him to abandon the system of government and public servants to whom he was so much attached. “ My child,” said he to M. Decazes next day, “the ultras are preparing against us a terrible war; they will make the most of my grief. It is not your system that they will attack—it is mine ; it is not at you their blows are levelled—it is at me.” “ Should your Majesty,” answered M. Decazes, “deem my retiring for the good of your service, I am ready to resign, though grieved to think my retreat will lead to such fatal consequences.” “ I insist upon your remaining,” replied the monarch; “ they shall not separate you from me." Then, after weeping in common over the deplorable event which had altered the destinies of France, and let loose the parties, com who tore its entrails with such fury against each other, 299, 300; they agreed on the measures to be adopted in conse- 273, 274;

Lac. ii. 369, quence ;? and these were, that the Chamber of Peers 372. should be summoned as a supreme court to try the assas

him.

IX.

1820.

42.

CHAP. sin of the Duke de Berri; and that laws, restrictive of de_ the license of the press, and giving the Government extra

ordinary powers of arrest, and modifying the Electoral Law, should be introduced into the lower Chamber.

But how determined soever the king might be to supHe at length port his favourite minister and system of government, the dismissal." tide of public feeling soon became so strong that it was

impossible to resist it. The terrible words of M. de Chateaubriand regarding M. Decazes in the Conservateur, “His feet have slipped in blood,” vibrated in every heart. The accusation against him, though quashed in the Chamber of Deputies, and repudiated by every unprejudiced mind, still hung over him in general opinion. People did not believe him guilty, but he had been openly accused, and no proof of his innocence had been adduced. The agitation of the public mind was indescribable, and soon assumed such a magnitude as portended great changes, and is always found, for good or for evil, to be irresistible. The terrible nature of the catastrophe—its irreparable consequences on the future of the monarchy—the chances of future and unknown dangers which it had induced, were obvious to every apprehension. Every one trembled for his fortune, his life ; a few for the public liberties. The Liberals became subdued and downcast, the Royalists vehement and exulting. Matters were at last brought to a crisis by a conversation which ensued between the king and the principal members of the royal family. The Count d'Artois demanded the dismissal of the primeminister, and a change in the system of government. “ We are hastening to a revolution, sire,” said the Duchess d'Angoulême, “but there is still time to arrest it. M. Decazes has injured the Royalists too deeply for any accommodation to take place between them : let him cease to be a member of your Cabinet, and all will hasten to tender to you their services.” “I do not suppose,” replied the king, “ that you propose to force my will : it belongs to me alone to determine the policy of my

« ForrigeFortsett »